Arsenal tied 2-2 with Ajax in the first leg of the second round of qualifying for the UEFA Women’s Champions League at Meadow Park on Tuesday.
Coach Jonas Edival’s team slipped in the vibrant first half but got out of the balls quickly after the break, despite not being able to waste his chances and facing a difficult task to overcome the Dutch giants in the second leg.
Arsenal goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger had to block early with her legs to block a resounding shot from Victoria Belova as Ajax started brightly.
Then the Austrian goalkeeper had to react quickly to parry Sherida Spitsy’s effort off goal, but was powerless to stop Ajax going ahead in the 18th minute, with Romy Leuchter hitting the near post.
Arsenal responded well to this early setback with Lize Kop taking a free kick from Beth Mead, although somehow Stina Blackstenius was unable to direct the rebound.
But Blackstenius was not rejected moments later when she was the first to respond to Rafael’s header hitting the crossbar, firing in the net to tie the score.
Ajax maintained strong pressure throughout the first half, keeping Zinsberger running constantly and stealing possession from Arsenal’s defenders.
Leuchter nearly doubled her tally for the near post again before the break but this time Zinsberger got a gauntlet.
Immediately after the break Arsenal thought they had gone up front after Steve Catley passed the race on goal, but could only find the woodwork and Ajax was left on the hook.
Arsenal’s strong start continued into the second half when Rafael hit the bet from close range and the hosts were awarded a penalty after Beth Meade went down in the penalty area. Kim Little stepped up and sent Cobb the wrong way to put Arsenal ahead.
England captain Leah Williamson received a call to shoot from 35 yards soon after, and her guess strike wasn’t too far from beating Cope.
The Dutch goalkeeper provided another superb choke to deny Cattley a third addition, and Arsenal were linked at the other end when Leuchter stabbed into the net during a stampede inside the penalty area.
Arsenal were denied a late win when Katie McCabe scored, but the offside flag was raised and the goal was offset.
The return leg will take place in De Tocumst on the outskirts of Amsterdam next Wednesday with Arsenal The need to win – either before the end of extra time or on penalties – to reach the group stage.